Category Archives: art

Vivid With Kids – It’s All North of the Bridge!

annual events, art, Sydney

Vivid Festival With Kids - North of the Bridge

I’ve made no secret of my love-hate relationship with Sydney’s annual Vivid Festival. On one hand, the light displays are spectacular. On the flip, there’s the crowds – the soul crushing crowds. Add a small child to the experience, and it can become an experience that makes a woman question her own sanity.

It’s like the organizers of Vivid heard my agoraphobic cries, and arranged for families with small children to have a completely satisfying Vivid experience, all on the north side of the Harbour.


Last year was the first time Chatswood took part in the Vivid Festival, and we loved the easygoing and family-friendly atmosphere, so we headed straight there with our girl this year. The theme is on dinosaurs, which could not have been more perfect for our dino fanatic (ours, and just about every other 2 – 5 year old I know).

We started our night at The Concourse, where a moving dinosaur show was projected on the huge outdoor screen and dino eggs glowed below in a smokey swamp. Vivid Festival Chastwood

Hushpuppy’s favorite part of the night was interacting with the roaming mechanical dinosaur skeletons, which were manned by Vivid guests who could take a turn wearing them. Both the kids and volunteers seemed to be having a great time playing with these puppets.

Vivid Festival ChatswoodFurther down Victoria Avenue is a fun moving light display full of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, which was particularly fun for the little kids to interact with. Vivid Festival Chatswood

Vivid Festival Chatswood

At the Interchange (next to the train station), is definitely the coolest part of the dinosaur spectacle. Large glowing and squawking pterodactyls soar up and down 3 stories, powered by visitors on step machines below. It’s definitely a sight.
Vivid Festival Chatswood

Finally, up at The District (dining district above The Interchange), the kids found the “crumbling bridge” – another light projection that young children were loving. Hushpuppy managed to “cross” the uneven bridge, and then looked up with amazement with it crumbled away under her feet.  We ran into some friends, and from The District, we decided the best way to end the night was with dumplings at Tim Ho Wan (can recommend!).

Lights at Chatswood are on at 5:30p.m. and there are plenty of dining options at Hawkers Lane, The District, and in between.

If you happen to be in Chatswood during the day, or between 5-7p.m. on a Thursday evening, there’s one more display you might try. On Level 1 at Chatswood Chase is “The Luminarium,” where kids (and grown ups, too) get to dress up in underwater explorer costumes and enter a “deep sea” adventure, mostly to do with projected light sea creatures and some mesh and light “jellyfish.” I wouldn’t say it’s worth a special trip, but if you’re there, it is fun for the kids to wear the costumes and enter through the secret door.Vivid Festival Luminarium

Taronga Zoo

We didn’t know what to expect when we booked tickets to the Vivid Festival at Taronga Zoo, as this was the first year they’ve had a display there. Our day finally arrived, and what a bummer – there was a huge rainstorm. On top of that, my daughter decided that she didn’t care to leave the house without her “super duper” jacket, which after running through all possible candidates, I found out was the one that was soaking wet in the washing machine. Though we’d been looking forward to it, none of us were in much of a mood as we arrived at Taronga!

The good news was that there was no crowd, thanks to the weather, and we hopped right onto our round trip ride on the Sky Train (booked through the ANZ Blue Pass, which is limited, but the same price as regular admission). The bad news is that we couldn’t see much out the windows, which were covered in rain. So much for our view of the city.

Aaah, but everything turned around when we got off, found that the rain had stopped, and started to make our way down the ramp into the zoo. The path was illuminated in blinking green rays of light that felt like stepping into a mystery jungle land.

From there, we spent an hour or so walking the well marked path with illuminated sculptures of endangered animals around every turn. “LOOK AT THAT!,” was Hushpuppy’s refrain for the remainder of the evening. Many of the displays moved or had an interactive quality, and zoo volunteers staffed each display, happy to tell you more about the animal.

Each display was just so beautiful and charming. I was particular to the gorgeous elephant, and Hushpuppy loved the tail-wagging tiger. Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

At a few spots along the walk, there were additional light displays, several of them made from paper lanterns shaped like animals, made by Sydney schoolchildren. Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

And, we got one final surprise on the way out – a real animal, out for a late night snack.Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

I was a little sad when we came to the end – I could easily have done another loop around, as it was all so magical. But, the parent in me knew that was pushing our luck way too hard with Little Miss Super Duper. Fortunately, on the way out, we had one more treat, which was the light and sound display that was projected on a loop on the front of the Taronga entrance. We’d passed by it on the way in, not wanting to stand in the rain, but settled in for the show on the way out. The theme was on human’s responsibility towards protecting endangered animals and featured moving images of all of the species that were displayed inside. It was gorgeous. I wanted to applaud at the end. Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

If you’re thinking of going to Vivid at Taronga Zoo, do make sure to book your tickets online ahead of time. Lights are on at 5:30p.m. Food options are limited both inside and near Taronga Zoo, so either eat before, after, or bring food in with you.

The Vivid Festival runs through 18 June (Chatswood ends 13 June). If you’re attending with young children, my best recommendation is to head over the bridge for these perfect family nights at Chatswood and Taronga Zoo.

Ephemeral City at Barangaroo

art, Sydney

I love the idea of grand and ephemeral things that exist solely for the purpose of adding wonder to our lives. It’s the theatre person in me, as everything about theatre is fleeting, designed to last only a few days or weeks. In an era where we can document every nano-event and share it with the planet, I love something whose feeling and scope carries on only with a particular community – the people who came together to see the play or, in the case of Sydney Festival’s Ephemeral City, the cardboard city.

A massive installation at Sydney’s newest park precinct, Barangaroo, Ephemeral City is a village of buildings made of cardboard, all constructed by the visitors. That’s cool, right? Truly, it was.

The city was well underway when we arrived today, as it’s been under construction for a number of days now. It was quite the thing to walk into this space with these massive and impressive structures, and see so many people buzzing around, packing tape in hand, busy as a hive with the continued building of this corrugated village. 

I didn’t give it a try (I really should have), but those who wanted a different perspective on the landscape could zip-line above the construction.

We did, however, decide to add our construction skills to the project, especially given that the bulk of Hushpuppy’s waking hours are dedicated to erecting with anything that even remotely resembles building blocks. We asked a volunteer for a project, and he had us build a triangle. 

One triangle construction was about enough for her (and by “her” I mean “me”). We could be proud of our contribution.

We were pondering how they got the buildings so high – most of them were nearly touching the ceiling – and our question was answered when the staff started shepherding everyone to the building we’d been working on. “Time to lift the building!”

It took quite a bit of preparation, and I opted for us to watch rather than participate, but the building was surrounded by guests, hoisted a couple of meters into the air, the new level was placed underneath, and then everyone hastily got to work taping it together. 

We enjoyed being part of a moment in the short life of Ephemeral City. Thank you, Sydney Festival, for giving us the chance to come together and make our own little impact on something that exists for the sheer purpose of its own becoming.

The Ephemeral City will cease to be when it is demolished on Australia Day (Tuesday)!

Losing Time and Space – Marina Abramović: In Residence

art, Sydney

abromavicEver since watching The Artist is Present, the documentary about performance artist Marina Abramović, we’ve been just a tiny bit obsessed. She pushes the limits of the human mind and body in a way that made me so curious about the technique and method behind the wondrous madness. So, when we learned that Abramović was having a “residency” in Sydney where visitors could take part in exercises that comprise “The Abramović Method,” Partner-in-Crime and I were ready to queue right up. We took turns going (someone had to stay home with the kid), and I’m glad we did because it gave us both the freedom to have an individual experience without worrying about the whereabouts or possible boredom of a companion. The project consists of six activities:

  • Sorting and counting a pile of rice
  • Slow walking
  • Standing platform
  • Looking at color blocks on a wall
  • Mutual gaze with a stranger – reminiscent of The Artist is Present project
  • Beds

We were both so taken with the experience and bursting to share impressions, so I asked if we could interview each other to try to capture here something of what the experience was like and how it felt. 

“We constantly like to be entertained, to get things from outside. We never take time to get in touch with ourselves … our inner self.” -Marina Abramović, as quoted in the study guide for In Residence

Go to the Kaldor Arts In Residence project website to see these images and others from the project.

Go to the Kaldor Arts In Residence project website to see these images and others from the project, which give more visual context.


Me: Did you go in with any expectations?

P-i-C: I probably had unconscious expectations, but I purposely ​stayed uninformed prior to the exhibit. I was eager and curious.

What did you feel when you saw the big black and white image of Marina at the entrance?

Me: As you know, I think she’s kind of a rock star, so to see her up there larger than life like that made me feel like I was walking into something special, and maybe a little daunting, too. Do you think maybe you’re supposed to be a bit intimidated?

P-i-C: When they placed a numerical black stamp on my hand I had a fleeting feeling of spookiness but probably because I was trying to assign a much higher symbolism than what they were doing – simply counting the number of visitors.

What did you think of the warm up exercises prior to entering the exhibit?

Me: I loved them. They said when I walked in to feel free to do as many as you wanted, and there was this whole room of people flapping all around, so I got the sense everyone was there to fully participate and go on the ride. I stayed through one whole round. A lot of them were exercises you might do in a yoga class.  Did you do them, and did you feel they “warmed you up” for the installation?

P-i-C: I felt they put me in the right physical and mental space, a bit like yoga, but they also had another surprising dimension of awakening my emotional self, restrained by every day conventions.

How did absence of ambient noise make you feel about your presence after they gave you those noise-cancelling earphones?

Me: I loved that, and they really worked, too. I couldn’t believe how quiet it was in there. I don’t remember when I’ve been in a space so devoid of background noise. We always have something – traffic, clocks, machines – so much background noise in our lives. Even when we’re having quiet time, it’s not quiet. The headphones and quiet put me in a different space. Right after I got the headphones and walked in, one of the facilitators – they were all dressed in black – took me by the hand and guided me to an installation. Did they do that to you, as well? Did that comfort or discomfort you?

P-i-C: At first I did not quite understand that they work there. I was asked to join another pair and I gave my hand without much forethought. You can just imagine the feeling of entering the performance space with two other strangers, all walking very slowly  holding hands without talking and not really knowing why this strange person asked for my hand in the first place, why I accepted it and most importantly, where we were going.

What did you do first?

Me: I was taken to the wooden platform. Everyone had a cube to stand on, and we were supposed to close our eyes. I liked that because it helped me get used to the silence, and after a couple of minutes, I opened my eyes and just had a quiet look around to get comfortable with the space. I started to get the idea that you could explore any way you wanted to.

What did you do?


P-i-C: ​I was led to the area where you sit and watch another person in their eyes in complete silence. I had two brief experiences with two people with earphones who were somewhat uncomfortable but trying to fake it through the whole thing, and both lasted only a few minutes. After that a person without earphones set opposite and we looked at each other for good twenty minutes. Looking into other person’s soul is an intensely emotional and riveting experience. I had outbursts of intense emotion and a rapid flow of thoughts as I am sure the other person did, since he dropped many tears. The entire process made me feel strangely immaterial as if my state of consciousness was just a mirage and a fragment in something much bigger yet reachable.


Me: Ah, yes. I did that one a little later on. I’d been so interested in sitting with someone else after seeing The Artist is Present where  she sat with so many people. I got the feeling the person who sat across from me didn’t expect this because she looked uncomfortable and sort of laughed at first. But, as we sat longer, we both got more comfortable, and it was an intense experience. It was like seeing something deeper than you even do with your closest friends, or something different, anyway. It was so powerful. I don’t know how Abramović did it for so long. I wonder if it energized or drained her.


P-i-C: What did you do after the wooden platform?
Me: I went to one of the chairs facing the wall where you looked at a square of color. Mine was blue. That’s it. You just look at the wall. After about a minute, I felt like crying because I realized that I never, ever have time in my life for just sitting. I’m always preoccupied with something, even if it’s so unimportant. I was so moved, and it really set the tone for the rest of my afternoon. I wanted to take my time. Did you do that one?


P-i-C: Yes I did a few colors, but was a bit disappointed that I could not feel the emotion of the color itself. However, one that left the greatest impression on me was this yellow rectangle that had a natural shade of the setting sun. I followed this shade with intense concentration, which allowed me to visualize time and the rotation of our planet. I felt very geospatially connected and thought about how the earth rotates around its axis and around the sun and how the entire solar system actually travels through space at unimaginable speed. Again, I felt my consciousness as a beautifully connected fragment of the universe.


Me: Very intense, my dear!


P-i-C: What did you do next?


Me: I did the meditative slow walking. You walk from one end of the space to another quite slowly. It probably took me half an hour.


I’m curious to ask – when you finished with an exercise, what was it that told you you were done? Because most of them you could participate in for as long as you wanted – hours even, in theory. What motivated you to get up and move on? Sometimes I moved because my mind wandered and I felt like I “should” do something different and sometimes I started getting physically uncomfortable.


P-i-C: In most cases, it was the cognitive completion rather than the emotional completion of the experience…​ and yeah the parking meter was ticking…​​ I clearly have much more training in front of me.


What made you get up from your comfy bed? What did you think and feel during your dream time?  ​


Me: Oh man, let me tell you, I never wanted to get out of that bed! It was so comfortable, and they tucked you in. Just needed some milk and cookies to make it complete. I don’t remember what I thought. I didn’t think that much. I did catch myself starting to snore, at one point (thank goodness everyone was wearing headphones!). It was great because when I laid down, it was light, and it was starting to get dark when I got up. It was like the best nap ever, even if I wasn’t really sleeping. Thanks, Marina!


Actually, I think it was starting to get cold in the space because of the sun going down, which was why I finally got up. You weren’t lying when you told me those beds were comfortable.


P-i-C: Weren’t those beds great? I loved being tucked in. What a special feeling…After that I went to do some rice and seed counting. I felt like a two year old completely immersed in it, counting, making shapes and patters – it was a very playful but also a very grounding experience.

Me: That’s such a perfect analogy. Hushpuppy loves that sort of sorting, too, doesn’t she? Something quite primal, I think. I did the rice counting after my little nap, as well. I woke up all ready to count rice, and as it was dark, I sat at my desk with the light on, and felt like some sort of Renaissance genius working problems by candlelight.


I spent a long time with the counting – got to almost 800 pieces of white rice and 700 pieces of black. I only stopped because my back was getting sore. I came away with so much respect for Marina Abramović – the physical, as well as mental stamina she must have do to her work is stunning.  I also took a sneaky peek at everyone else’s rice counting work as I walked out. It was so interesting – each person had their own style of piling and counting, and everyone was very intense. One person behind me had two huge piles – he must have been at it for more than an hour.


P-i-C: What were your final impressions?


Me: So many, but most of all, just a feeling of calm that I wanted to bring with me. I wanted to remember the sense that we don’t have to fill our minds and lives with so much clutter. That became so evident. It was very powerful.

Marina Abramović: In Residence continues until 5 July 2015 at Wharf 2/3 in Walsh Bay
12 noon – 7p.m.
Admission is free
Ages 12+

A Very Vivid Week

annual events, art, Sydney

The Vivid Festival is one of those annual events in Sydney that you just do every year. You have to. I must admit to becoming something of a Vivid grump in the years since our first magical experience in 2011. It’s so crowded. Sometimes the displays are kind of a bust. Did I mention the crowds? I”m not a crowd person. You’re not supposed to say this, but Vivid is a hit or miss proposition for me. However, hope springs eternal and we keep going because, in theory, a city full of light displays – particularly the iconic Harbour and Opera House – is an event that lifts this city from quite nice to mythichal. We dedicated three whole nights to Vivid this week, and didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all there is to see. But, from my vantage this year, it was once again a mixed bag with the very best of intentions and a lot to like.

Here’s the rundown of our Very Vivid Week:

On Sunday, we took advantage of the “Sunday Funday” $2.50 public transport fares and rode the ferry to and from Circular Quay. This is the perfect way to see Vivid, as you can get a close up of all the displays, particularly the light show on the Opera House, and you arrive at the ferry terminal in the midst of the action.

We had about an hour and a half to play with, including a frenetic stop at McDonald’s, taking into account Hushpuppy’s bedtime and my patience with dragging her through crushing masses of human bodies (minimal). The first place we stopped was the Customs House, which every year has a moving light display projected onto it. This one, more than anything else we saw, was the winner with the toddler. It really was beautifully done, and four days later, unprompted by me, she was still reciting parts of the display that she remembered like it was in front of her – “House breaking! Dinosaur! Garden! Snail – ride it! Lift! Fish!” I’m actually considering taking her back just to watch this one again. 

From there, we went for a wander around The Rocks side of Circular Quay, just as far as Cadmans Cottage. There were a few interactive displays, though long lines for most of them. The Museum of Contemporary Art never fails to impress, and the lawn in front of it was open for kids to run around on, which was very much appreciated by my entire little family.

FullSizeRender (6)

There are quite a few more displays beyond where we stopped and further up into The Rocks, but we’d reached the limit of our patience with toddler crowd surfing, so we left some unseen, to be enjoyed by those with later bedtimes. It’s always a special view on the ferry out:

On Thursday, we boarded a Vivid cruise to get a different perspective of the display. We’d booked this family-friendly cruise arranged by a local “mum’s” group several months earlier, and were excited about it. It’s always nice to be in a safe place where Hushpuppy and her two year old antics will be understood, and we were going on a hunch that she’d really like being on a boat and seeing the lights. We were blessed with a nice night, and the experience was pleasant enough, but our tactical error was not getting in line early enough to secure a spot on the upper deck where the good viewing was. From the bottom of the boat, we couldn’t see much, so we took turns walking up and down stairs with Hushpuppy and trying to squeeze into a spot to see the sights. The cruise’s course was actually just a short swath from the Opera House to just under the Bridge and then back again, probably six or seven times over an hour and a half. We didn’t enter Circular Quay, so it was more of a view from the distance, aside from the great close up we got of the Bridge from right underneath it.

vivid 2015 1 vivid 2015 2 vivid 2015 3

I think next year, we’d skip the cruise and just stick with a trip or two on the regular ferry. It’s a better view, shorter, and much less expensive!

Hands down, our best Vivid night out was to Chatswood, which was hosting its first display this year. We drove in and parked easily at Chatswood Chase mall (free parking if you enter after 6). The first display was inside the mall, and set up the funky underwater theme.We then went out and wandered up and down Victoria Avenue, finally stopping at one of the food trucks and eating our Yum Cha picnic style on the Councourse yard, where there was plenty of room for Hushpuppy to run around with other kids in the shadow of the large projection display.

Display at the Councourse

There’s not nearly as much going on at Chatswood as in the city, in terms of the number of displays, but it was just my pace – bustling, but not overwhelming, and easy to enjoy.

It truly is exciting to have this event grace Sydney every year, even if I don’t love everything about the experience. For our busy Vivid week, my “misses” were the crazy crowds at Circular Quay and the Vivid Cruise. The definite “hits” were the ferry ride, the Customs House display, and a great night out in the underwater world of Chatswood.

Vivid Sydney runs through 8 June in various locations across Sydney.

The Sydney Side: Sculpture By the Sea 2014

annual events, art, Sydney

Having a background in the arts, there are few things that endear a city to me more than a commitment to public art. I carry a belief that the arts need to be accessible – both from a cost perspective, but moreover that anyone can get the feeling that “I belong here.” Art teaches us so much about what it is to be human, to be alive in our world, about how to think critically, and adds many layers of beauty and emotion to our lives. And so it is that Sculpture By the Sea is the one annual Sydney event that my little family never misses.

It is a showcase of over 100 pieces of art, which are displayed along the Bondi to Tamarama Beach coastal walk (approximately 2km). The website says that it is “one of the world’s largest free to the public events.” Indeed, it is an extremely popular event, very nearly always crowded, but worth making the effort. 

We went yesterday, and without thinking, we actually picked an amazing time to go, as we were there just as the Melbourne Cup was underway (one of the other biggest events around), so the crowds were very manageable. We carried Hushpuppy in the Ergo Baby most of the time, which I’d highly recommend to anyone bringing a small child – don’t bring the pram! She was also manageable for almost the whole trip, until the very end when she realized that we weren’t going to let her go swimming, and she launched in on a terrible-nearly-two-tantrum to demonstrate to all spectators about the injustice of this world, which in and of itself is its own piece of performance art.

I’ve written about Sculpture By the Sea every year, and you can have a look through past years on the Sydney Side page under Annual Events. Now on to the photos from 2014. Partner-in-Crime always has a lot of fun photographing this event, so the bulk of the images are his handiwork.

I just like the perspective P-i-C got on this one, same sculpture as the one above.

I just like the perspective P-i-C got on this one, same sculpture as the one above.


This one dealt with climate change, particularly the melting glaciers. It really got to me.



I always like the ones that asthetically work with the natural features.


I can’t exactly explain why, but this is the one that most stuck with me. I really loved it.


View of part of the walk.


This is another shot of the piece you can see in the above photo.


I  liked this one. You couldn’t tell what you were looking at until you actually got onto the piece and walked around it when an image was revealed in the mirror.


Another perspective on the one above.



This one was quite fun to photograph from different angles. Please indulge me…








The Sydney Side: Museum of Contemporary Art – Toddler in Tow

art, Little Aussie, Sydney

This is the second in my new series on things Sydney related. For more on Sydney, from this series and older posts from this blog, click on the “The Sydney Side” link at the top of the page.

IMG_2688A couple months ago, Partner-in-Crime finally talked me into visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art. I can’t explain why it took so long for me to get there, especially as I’m actually pretty keen on modern art. Once upon a time, I even flew to Pittsburgh for one day, just to visit the Andy Warhol Museum. But, for some reason, I just couldn’t get up the interest, putting it in the “to do later” basket. Finally, P-i-C really wanted to see the pieces from the Biennale, and it being a nice day with nothing else on, I at last couldn’t come up with any reason not to.

Of course, not having a full-time nanny (or a part-time one, for that matter), we brought Hushpuppy along and, surprisingly, she liked it quite a lot. All the visual elements really appealed to her. The museum is also very accessible for strollers – plenty of ramps and elevators – so it turned out to be a nice time for all of us, and I had to wonder why I’d been so stubborn in not going before.

While there, I picked up a brochure with information about children’s programming. On offer for Hushpuppy’s age is the ARTplay program, which takes place on Wednesdays. It was suggested that my toddler and I “(D)rop in anytime between 10.00am and 12.00noon to explore sculptural objects, wooden blocks and let the creative play lead the way. An opportunity for toddlers and parents/carers to communicate and work with sculpture in challenging and unexpected ways.  Sounded pretty rad to me, anyway, so I thought I’d see what my toddler thought, and we popped into the City this morning to give it a try.



We were greeted by a welcoming hipster guy who handed us a tablet to sign in on (soo modern!) and offered the chance to pay what seemed like a pretty mandatory $5 donation. Down the hall, we were greeted by a sweet, grandmotherly staffer who cautioned us to “watch the step” over the baby gate. As a mother, little things like that are a reassurance to know that it’s not their first rodeo with wily toddlers.

The big room was full of simple, yet somehow magical implements. Glittery fabric, felt that stuck to the wall, makeshift magic wands, colorful blocks large and small, books and so forth. A small, dark room in the corner eventually captured Hushpuppy’s curiosity like nothing else, as it had three screens on the wall showing an installation with people in clown costume doing funny things with their faces.

Almost immediately, we happened to run into a fellow American in Sydney mother with a son the same age as Hushpuppy who I haven’t seen in months. It was the first time there for both of us, a nice surprise and ever-mounting evidence of how every big city turns into a small town, once you’ve lived there long enough.

The kids found plenty to entertain them for the almost two hours that we were there. Aside from the screen room, other favorites were the glittery, sheer fabric and the big blocks that they could stack and then knock over.


IMG_2676 IMG_2666 IMG_2671 IMG_2680Throghout the morning, there was also story time (exactly no interest to Hushpuppy, but a lot of the other kids liked it), singing time (moderate interest to Hushpuppy, mostly to do with the shakey eggs they handed out to all the kids), and parachute time (massively interesting to Hushpuppy).

IMG_2667 IMG_2684


We had a very creative morning at the MCA, and I’m pleased my attendance drought has been broken. I can see ARTplay going onto our schedule once a month or so. Hushpuppy may just become a modern art junkie before pre-school.

Vivid 2014

annual events, art

Vivid is one of the the most fascinating events of the year in Sydney, a cultural festival whose main attraction is a series of light-based public art displays that come on each evening. There are displays all over the city – Circular Quay, Martin Place, Darling Harbour, Milsons Point, and maybe a few more. Last year, we skipped it, as we had a four month old, and taking her out into crowds after dark in the cold seemed like the laest appealing prospect on offer. This year, though, we thought we’d give it a try, as we now have an inquisitive toddler who even seems vaguely aware that there are such a things as lights (i.e. – she points to the lights on our ceiling and says, “gah! gah!”).

We confined ourselves to the Circular Quay and The Rocks festivities and chose a weeknight, as the crowds can be crushing on the weekends. We got to Circular Quay around 5p.m. and sat down at one of the overpriced and mediocre tourist restaurants for a meal so that we’d all be in fine form when the lights came on at 6. Thankfully, our dinner special came with (terrible) glasses of wine because, even early on a weeknight, the crowds were large, and a little pre-game mellowing was helpful in dealing with the stress of it all. The festival seems to be growing every year, and I’m afraid that aspect of it is making it less and less fun. But, the new excitement for us was letting our girl interact with the exhibits a bit. We found a few for her to play with and, more or less, she was pretty taken with the lights and people everywhere. It did get scary for her when we hit a dark section in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art. She was being pushed in her pram and couldn’t see either of her parents, as we were behind her, so she got pretty scared. From then on, we tried to stay in her sight, and she’d every once in awhile reach up for a reassuring hand. We didn’t stay terribly long – maybe an hour and a half after dinner – as it was all a bit much for Hushpuppy, but got a good taste of the festival, nonetheless. I’ll look forward to going again next year with an older toddler who can get even more into the interactive exhibits.

Projections on Customs House
Projections on Customs House
Hushpuppy enjoying some light play.

Projections on the Museum of Contemporary Art
Projections on the Museum of Contemporary Art

The most exciting part of Vivid is the “lighting of the sails.” 

Sculpture By the Sea 2013

annual events, art
Yesterday, we had our annual afternoon out at Bondi/Tamarama for Sculpture By the Sea, a can’t miss event on our calendar. We sped through a little faster than past years, as we were toting some extra baggage this year. Speaking of, since I was carrying the Hushpuppy in the Ergo Baby, I gave Partner-in-Crime full rights to my camera. All photos are his handiwork. 
I’ve written about Sculpture By the Sea a number of times before, so let’s just look at some pictures, shall we?
Past years:

We heard the funniest conversation around this one. A mom trying to explain to her two kids. She was doing great, talking about how fleeting life is, etc. Then the kids asked why there was a baby. She says, “… …I don’t know. I find it a bit gross, actually.”

Favorite. I have a trend of always loving the one in this spot. 

Close up of the one above. This was really cool.
And one of the Hushpuppy eating a big handful of sand.

Sculpture By the Sea 2012

annual events, art, Sydney

True to our usual wait-to-the-last-minute style, Partner-in-Crime and I somehow put off visiting this year’s Sculpture by the Sea until the closing weekend. Yesterday, we knew the crowds would be awful and the weather was moody, but this is one of our Sydney must-do events, so we braved it all and I’m so glad we did. I’ve written about Sculpture by the Sea before (2010 and 2011), so I am going simply going to post here a collection of some of my favorite photos from this year.

Overheard at this one: A dad with a boy about 3 years old. “What do you think?” Kid – “That’s funny!” 

My favorite.

P-i-C took this cool photo from inside one of the sculptures.

Me now.
Me two months from now.

Tamarama Beach, with some of the sculptures.

Green Shoots and the Biennale


The calendar says that it is officially Spring, and though it remains a wee bit chilly, I am inclined to risk grave disappointment by believing. Signs include:

1. <—- I saw one of these today.
2. Last weekend, while in the direct sunlight, I briefly de-fleeced down to a t-shirt.
3. My allergies have begun.
4. I chose coral for today’s pedicure.
5. Lately, I have a lot more company on the Botanic Garden lawn at lunch.
6. I have a sudden burning desire to purchase a pair of espadrilles.

Another sign of Spring is that last weekend, we took this season’s first trip to Cockatoo Island. The occasion for this trip was the Biennale of Sydney. The Biennale is an art exhibition that, as the name implies, takes place every two years. Cockatoo Island is one of a few locations around town with exhibitions, but certainly the most fun to visit.

We met up with our friends ATL Girl and ATL husband who regaled us with tales of their recent trip to Vanuatu and adventurously braved with us the sprawling, sometimes very strange world of the Biennale. Exhibits were all over the island, particularly in the old factory buildings and tunnels.

In the first building we entered, there was a quite odd collection of seemingly random objects, some on a stage, some in photographs, and some in sculptural form. On the way out, we read a sign explaining that the exhibit has something to do with puppet theatre, which began to make a bit more sense, but until then we were rather perplexed. Visitors were invited to write their thoughts on paper left on a table, and this was my favorite:

There was plenty of weird. There was also some marvelous,
Guests could pull on these delicate little threads and light up a piece of this wonderland.

…some lovely,

…some whimsical,

…some Gothic,

…some electrifying,
… and some grandiose.
We made a valiant effort, but I’m not sure that we saw everything. In fact, I know we missed at least one performance art piece that involved standing quietly in line for a long time to be admitted entry into a small building. Seeing a line, we queued up like good little sheep, not knowing what it was for. Only after a good five minutes of waiting (and whispering, as we were shushed by the cranky bag rule-abiding citizen in front of us) did we decide that the whole thing might be an study in crowd dynamics and that it was not worth our while to stick around to find out if we were in fact the spectator or subject matter of the experiment. 
ATL Girl was responsible for what I considered to by the most wryly apropos quote of the day – “it’s amazing what you can do with an X-Acto knife.” I really did enjoy the whole experience, but there was a bit of that feeling about parts of the exhibition. Some was wonderful and some a bit silly or unpolished, but for just the price of a ferry ticket, I’d say we more than got our day’s worth of entertainment and enlightenment.
At the end of the day, we had almost an hour to kill before catching our ferry back, so we grabbed a (literal) patch of grass at the Island Bar and enjoyed a few bevvies and sunshine … the Island Bar is my favorite harbinger of Spring approaching and, I hope, a sign of things to come.